They arrived in Fairy World and Cosmo and alternate Timmy shivered; they had needed Cosmo's magic to arrive there, and Timmy had refused to abandon his godfather. The transistor cloaked them, transforming them from their normal forms into moving scenery. Even in her thoughts, Tootie was wary to mention Wanda by name, because she feared the power names had in this universe. Plus, Cosmo seemed downright petrified, although that wasn't a good gauge since Cosmo was petrified of Jorgen in her world and she didn't fear him at all.
The transistor allowed them to break cover, should Tootie choose it, but first she had to find a likely candidate. None of the freestanding faeries were willing to talk. Wanda's iron rule usually prevented any of them from speaking, lest they get attacked. From a warm, comfortable, happy place, Fairy World had transformed into an oppressive, depressing, fearful world like all the worlds The Other had ruled. None of the freestanding faeries had any hope the situation would change.
"This is getting us nowhere," her Timmy snarled. "We should call Cosmo and Wanda-"
"No," she snapped. She folded her arms across her chest. According to the street signs, they were near Penn and Teller streets. Since she hadn't spent extensive time in Fairy World, she had no idea where that was. "Maybe I should try, instead of you."
"You don't know Fairy World," he countered.
"No, but I have more experience on these missions than you do," she shot back. She held out the transistor to him and he didn't take it. His hands trembled and she realized the transistor might take on an unwanted shape in his hands.
"Cosmo," she said, imbuing her voice with authority and causing the fairy to stop in mid air and shudder, "can you hold this? I'm going to see if I can find someone who isn't afraid of their reflection."
The fairy gingerly took it and Tootie stepped outside the transistor's protective aura. Mustering her courage, she advanced on a small pub where Mama Cosma's house was in their world. As soon as she entered, the room went silent. Faeries at the bar stopped in mid drink, one faerie throwing darts missed the dart board and pegged the wall, and the bartender's glass fizzed over. Tootie forced a smile and a faerie with pointed ears ducked under a table. Ignoring the faint tremor in her limbs, she walked up to the bartender.
"You're getting beer all over your hands, you know," she said.
"Tootie!" the bartender gasped. He had bright red hair, scarlet eyes, and a five o'clock shadow. "Tootie, don't hurt me!"
((Looks like we found out where your counterpart went,)) Timmy said. ((Tootie's reign of terror.))
She ignored him. Hopping onto a stool and disregarding her discomfort (fear always rode high on these missions), she flipped up the tab to prevent the beer from spilling further onto the floor.
"I've decided to spare all of you," she said. "So you can all calm down."
Every faerie (aside from Cosmo, who hadn't been afraid in the first place) heaved a sigh of relief. The tension fizzled away, although they gave her wary looks. The faerie that had shot the wall retrieved his dart and tried again. Gradually, conversation returned, a low murmur as if afraid Tootie might change her mind. Hmm. Tootie hadn't sensed an 'Other' lingering, or any indication of a wish gone awry, so she had no idea what her counterpart's role might be. She could inquire of the transistor, except it was better used cloaking her beloved, his counterpart, and Cosmo.
"Does…does the Mafia Princess want something?" the bartender squeaked.
"No," Tootie said and groped for footing. "She wanted to ensure loyalty and see no treasonous faeries had entered."
"We're all loyal!" the faerie who had jumped under the table squawked.
((Binky,)) Timmy supplied.
"How would you describe my relationship with the Mafia Princess?" Tootie said.
The bartender gulped. "Pretty good. You two are inseparable."
"Some say," Binky said, "that she's like your mother. You've been…you've been with her since you were born. Don't you remember, Tootie?"
"Of course I remember," she snarled. ((If I was there, then why didn't I see myself?))
((Beats me,)) Timmy said. ((Unless Wanda was keeping you hidden.))
"You don't want us to do anything for you, do you?" the bartender squawked.
"I think we're done here," she said. ((C'mon.))
Trooping outside, she held the door open for her invisible companions and stepped back under the transistor's protective shield. Alternate Timmy was giving her a horrified look and Cosmo edged closer to his godchild. Her Timmy, however, looked mildly amused.
"We've learned all we're going to learn," she said. "No one is going to know why Wanda- the 'Mafia Princess'- adopted me, and it looks like I'm your best bet at getting close to her."
She frowned, folding her arms across her chest. "But it doesn't look like toppling Wanda would really solve the problem. She wasn't the problem to begin with."
"Stop using the name," Cosmo hissed.
"We go after Big Daddy and find Jorgen?" her Timmy said. "And then what?"
A security camera hovered near them and snapped a picture. Chills went down her spine and she stepped closer to Timmy, who had done the same. Cosmo and alternate Timmy gaped, Cosmo's hands gripping his wand. A pregnant pause ensued and none of them looked at each other.
"Does the transistor work against cameras?" she said aloud.
"No…" Timmy said quietly. "It'll change back."
"Then we've been spotted," she said.
They returned to Fairy World and Wanda immediately commanded her forces to locate Big Daddy. Anxious and uneasy from her trip to Earth, Wanda descended to her inner sanctum and brought Tootie. Tootie waved her wand and conjured chocolate, which earned her a rare smile. Tootie reciprocated, rocking back and forth on her heels. Wanda, in the meanwhile, gorged herself on chocolate and produced a soda to help it all go down.
"Once Big Daddy's located, do we capture him?" Tootie asked.
"I'm not sure…" Wanda said and munched a chocolate bar. "Thank you, by the way."
"You're welcome," she said. "Wouldn't it be better to have him under your control?"
"It would be…ironic," Wanda replied, her lips twitching. "I don't see how I could force him to reclaim Fairy World, but there may be other functions for which he is uniquely designed."
"Princess!" a faerie with black hair, brown eyes, and a lithe, athletic build said. She bowed and Wanda inclined her head.
"The humans you sent away returned," Novios said. "And they brought someone with them. They say his name is Cosmo."
Wanda gasped, the name hitting her like a blow to the stomach. Her hands trembled. "Cosmo? He's here? In Fairy World?"
"Yes, Princess," Novios replied. "Do you want us to capture them?"
Big Daddy had set the compulsion to prevent Wanda from pursuing Cosmo on Earth and she had exiled him there. Unable to seek him out, and knowing his fear prevented him from doing the same, she'd not seen him since the edict over nine thousand years ago. She rose to her feet and Tootie gently tugged her back down. Scowling, she meant to reprimand her, except she realized her legs were unsteady and she would have fallen over. The half human child had saved her an embarrassing display, although the boxes of chocolate and chocolate stains on her mouth were probably testament otherwise.
"Capture Cosmo," she said and produced a napkin to wipe her face. "Leave the others."
"You've warned them once before," Novios said. "The penalty for breaking your rules twice is death."
"I'm well aware," Wanda snapped. "Leave the others. They may lead us to Jorgen."
"As you wish," Novios said and inclined her head. "Detain Cosmo and bring him to you immediately?"
"Yes," Wanda said. "That will suffice. You are dismissed, Novios."
"I wish we were home!" alternate Timmy said and Cosmo held up his wand. Before he had a chance to grant the wish, the wand's light dimmed and a squadron of faeries dressed in black materialized. They huddled closer, Cosmo quivering and whimpering, and Tootie grabbing the transistor, which had turned into a sword. Timmy flinched, wanting to flee far away from it and thinking of Lorenzo again. Tootie stroked his cheek with the back of her hand and he jumped.
((This wasn't a good idea, was it?)) she sent.
((The idea was fine,)) Timmy snapped, churlish. ((The transistor's the problem.))
A faerie broke off from the group and held up a wand. Wearing black, the faeries were nondescript and impossible to determine gender. Jerking his/her head, the faerie tugged Cosmo close and alternate Timmy growled, leaping on his godfather and tugging him back.
"We have orders," the faerie with the wand snapped. Even the voice was androgynous. "Cosmo is ours. The others are free."
"I'm not leaving Cosmo," alternate Timmy retorted.
The faerie groaned. "Humans are always so dramatic."
Something hissed and Tootie pivoted, trying to determine the source. Her eyelids grew heavier and she groaned, wielding the transistor to fend it off, but it was mysteriously not responding. Either that, or she didn't have the energy necessary to compel it. Slumping against her Timmy, she reached for his hand and he moved it away. This was the last thing she remembered.
Cosmo appeared before her when Wanda was in the middle of her second chocolate bar. He scanned the room and all its potential weapons, gulped, and flung himself on the floor. Tootie snorted and Wanda rolled her eyes. Being this close to him, after millennia of separation, made her chest tight and she ached with desire. Gritting her teeth, she took several deep breaths through her nose and concentrated on not humiliating herself further.
"You may rise," she said. Cosmo jumped and ducked behind a chair.
"This is Cosmo?" Tootie scoffed. "What a coward."
Groaning, Wanda put the wand down beside her. "There. Now neither of us are armed."
"But she is!" Cosmo said, pointing to Tootie.
"Mother, must I?" Tootie said, groaning.
"Unless you'd like him to continually jump at walls, then yes, you must," Wanda said, smiling thinly.
"Oh, it has a certain appeal, I must admit," Tootie said. "But it might grow tiresome after the first hour."
Wanda glared. "Tootie. Wand down. That's an order."
Tootie reluctantly lowered her wand and dropped it on the floor. As she had known he wouldn't, Cosmo made no effort to retrieve it. Instead, he shuffled away from the chair and stared at Wanda. Wanda stared back, squeezing the bed sheets. So much time had passed, and yet, aside from the acne clearing, Cosmo looked almost exactly the same. Her heart skittered painfully in her chest.
"She doesn't look that much like the other Tootie," Cosmo said and Wanda smirked.
"No, no, she doesn't," she said. "She's missing the half crown and she holds herself differently. Of course, that Tootie is entirely human, whereas mine isn't."
"What are you talking about?" Tootie said, frowning.
Wanda waved her hand to indicate the subject dismissed temporarily. "Why are you in Fairy World?"
"Timmy wished it," Cosmo said, shrugging. "You know Da Rules. At least, you used to."
Wanda pushed herself off the bed and promptly collapsed onto the floor. Cursing mentally, she accepted the hand back up and, to save face, scrambled back against the pillows. A greater being would have inferred she was off kilter. Cosmo was too stupid to notice. Still, the way his eyes roved her face increased her unease.
"Why didn't you look at me?" he said. She didn't have to ask for clarification.
"You owe your life to me," she said. "You should be grateful, little faerie."
"I don't understand," he replied.
"Big Daddy ordered your execution along with your parents," Tootie said. "Wanda stayed the sentence and transmuted it to save your life."
Cosmo gaped at them. Wanda rubbed her temples and smeared chocolate on them. Fetching her wand, she absently cleaned it off and then pushed it away again. She wasn't sure whether Cosmo's incomprehension was because she'd rescued him, or because Tootie's larger vocabulary had left him perplexed.
"Why?" he said.
"You know why," she replied.
"The same reason you adopted Tootie?" Cosmo said and she flinched. She ignored Tootie's curious look. She had never told her why she'd adopted her, and had no intention of it, but Cosmo's forthrightness deserved an answer.
"Not quite," she said. "She's Juandissimo's daughter, his last desperate attempt to get my attention after I'd cast him away."
"You could have…" Cosmo swallowed hard and she knew without asking the rest of it.
"Yes," she admitted, inclining her head. "I could have."
"But you didn't," he said and smiled. "Because you still have a heart."
"I wouldn't go that far," she said.
"I would," he said, warming to the idea. "You have a heart and you love her, just like you love me."
Wanda ground her teeth. Tootie glanced from her to Cosmo, back and forth, like watching a tennis match. She had a strong urge to smack her in the back of the head. Instead, she grabbed her wand and lifted Cosmo up off the floor. Her eyes narrowed.
"I spared your life once," she said. "Don't make me regret it."
Cosmo gulped and Wanda released him into a sprawl on the floor. His eyes met hers and she softened, wishing she hadn't treated him so harshly. In nine thousand years, she hadn't apologized or weakened toward anyone, save Tootie. Tootie was an extreme case, where Wanda was the only person she had in the entire world, and on whom she was dependent. Try as she might, she was unable to wrench her gaze away from Cosmo.
"Is what he said true?" Tootie asked.
"I wouldn't keep you around if you didn't have a use to me," Wanda replied.
"But…" Tootie swallowed, "You wouldn't have adopted me and allowed me to call you 'Mother' if I were just a tool."
Wanda swallowed too, rubbing her palms along her pants. With great effort, she broke the connection between herself and Cosmo, and stared at the bedspread. She had never told Tootie she loved her, though she had given her indications of it. Keeping her close to her and permitting her to see her at her weakest was the best Wanda could have done to show it, since she hadn't uttered those words in over nine thousand years. In fact, the last person she'd said those words to…
"Wanda," Cosmo said and Wanda jerked her head. She shuddered again. Another first in thousands of years.
"Do you love her?" he said. By adding her name to it, he'd compelled her to tell the truth. His mastery over her true name wasn't the same, since she'd changed in between. It achieved its goal, nonetheless.
"Yes," Wanda said.
"Then you have a heart!" he said and grinned at her. "Or you wouldn't have adopted her or saved me. Or Timmy."
Tootie whispered, "I love you too, Mother."
Wanda shuddered. Those three words. "I'll see whether they've made any headway locating Daddy."
"I'll do that and you'll stay with Cosmo," Tootie said. "You two have catching up to do."
"No," Wanda snapped. "I'll go."
"But, Wanda," Cosmo whined, "I want you to stay. And so does Tootie."
There was another first. That was the first time in a long while she'd heard her name whined. The last time had been Cosmo too. Despite herself, she laughed. It was rusty, since she didn't remember the last time she'd laughed genuinely, amused rather than deriving pleasure from other's pain. Warmth filled her and she relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in centuries. There was a danger in that too, she realized. Cosmo could be her downfall if she wasn't careful.
At that, she was on guard again. Love was dangerous. Love was a weakness. Cosmo was the greatest weakness she could ever have, with his ill adeptness at magic and his stupidity. Should anyone find out his significance, it'd be easy to snatch him away and use him against her. She refused to look at him.
"I'll go," she said. He hadn't laden her name with a compulsion and at this point, there wasn't anyone she knew of who could order her and succeed.
"Promise me you'll stay," Cosmo said and she fought the urge to look at him. In their earlier time together, promises were everything. She and Blonda had used to pinky promise. She barely recalled her twin and yet, her twin was the reason everything had happened.
"I'll be right back," Tootie said and popped out. Wanda hissed and Cosmo approached the bed. She moved aside without looking at him, though she was strongly aware of his presence.
"I haven't had Wanda flavor in a really long time," he said.
"Drop the pretense," she told him. "We're not the same. 'We' are not a 'we' anymore. I'm not the faerie you fell in love with. I kill, destroy, and pillage."
"I bet you don't like it doing it," he said.
"It doesn't matter," she said. "I tried changing Fairy World after Daddy destroyed it and no one believed me. No one trusted me. Big Daddy corrupted everyone. So I became what everyone expected me to be. A tyrant."
"I never expected you to be a tyrant," he said and licked his lips. "You were always Wanda to me."
"I couldn't have been," she said. "You didn't know my name until a year after we started…"
"Dating?" he suggested and she scoffed.
"You could hardly call it that," she said.
"I'd call it that," he said. "I missed you. I love you, Wanda."
"You know, anyone else using my name that often would have been summarily executed," she said. Cosmo cupped her cheek and tilted her head toward him. She gasped and was shocked to discover tears burning the corners of her eyes.
"I wish Daddy had never found your parents at the F.U.N…." she said and swallowed, throat constricting.
"You're still the same," he said. "The same beautiful faerie who was crying."
A tear coursed down her cheek and she jerked away from him. She really ought to have gone with Tootie.
"I never stopped loving you, even if I stopped seeing you," he said. He kissed her and she slid her hand beneath his shirt to the smooth skin beneath. For a second, she rested her hand on his chest, right above his heart. She broke off the kiss and shuddered, withdrawing further on the bed.
"I should kill you," she said, swallowing hard. "You'll destroy me. Everything I've built will be in ruins."
"I thought you didn't want it," he said.
"I don't," she said and laughed humorlessly, a jittery short sound she cut off. "It's all I have. It's all I am anymore. Cosmo, I'm trapped."
"No," he said.
"Yes," she said.
"No," he insisted. "You're never trapped, as long as I'm around."
"Then what am I supposed to do?" she whispered.
"Trust me," he said and grinned. She groaned.
"Oh, because that's a good idea," she retorted.
"Hey," he said. "I promised I wouldn't hurt you and I never have."
He leaned forward again and kissed her. Nervous, he broke off the kiss and she grabbed him by the tie to bring him back. Her heart raced and she knew this was a bad idea, knew he'd destroy everything, and wanted it so badly she was willing to throw all caution to the winds. She kissed him on the lips and lingered, burying one hand in his hair.
"I love you too, Cosmo," she murmured against his lips. Her eyes narrowed and she jerked back. "This can't last forever, can it?"
"Nope!" Cosmo said cheerily. "Only another day or two, then I'm stealing you and bringing you back to Earth with me."
"Earth?" she repeated and weighed it in her mind. Earth was where Blonda had been killed. Earth was where Big Daddy hid out. No one would ever suspect the Mafia Princess to hide out there. Her lips dried and she licked them.
"Wanda, do you trust me?"
She gritted her teeth and hissed. "Stop using my name."
"But…" he protested. "How else am I gonna get you to tell me the truth?"
"Of course I trust you," she said, grimacing. There was silence and Wanda's grip slackened on Cosmo's tie. He wrapped his arms around her and she gasped, her whole body tingling. She could get used to this.
"As Timmy says, 'what's the worst that could possibly happen'?" Cosmo said and beamed.